Query: "Winner, winner, chicken dinner"

Mon May 12 00:15:53 UTC 2008

According to the movie 21, the term was invented by a now nameless blackjack dealer years ago.  The phrase does not seem to appear in the more factual book on which the movie was based, Bringing Down the House.  However, an 11/26/1998 article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, about TV sportscaster Steve Iandoli, seems to supply some support for the blackjack origin as well as suggesting an explanation for its transition to sports usages:  "While in Vegas, Iandoli picked up a phrase from a Chinese blackjack dealer that he often uses on the air:  'Winner, winner, chicken dinner.'"
Although I've played blackjack intermittently since 1980, I don't recall having heard the phrase before seeing 21.  The movie loses credibility quickly with serious blackjack players, when a supposedly knowledgeable character advises not splitting eights when the dealer's up card is a ten.
John Baker


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Sam Clements
Sent: Sun 5/11/2008 4:05 PM
Subject: Re: Query: "Winner, winner, chicken dinner"

You can find it used in Usenet(Google Groups) from January, 1997.
(scroll down to the last sentence)

A more tempting post on Usenet was from a poster who said/intimated that
this was a saying from the craps/stickmen in Las Vegas from 20 years ago.

Sam Clements

----- Original Message -----
From: "Benjamin Zimmer" <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2008 2:37 PM
Subject: Re: Query: "Winner, winner, chicken dinner"

> On Sun, May 11, 2008 at 2:00 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
>> At 10:47 AM -0500 5/11/08, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>>>One of my students has asked me about "Winner, winner, chicken
>>>dinner" -- something I had never heard of before.   Would anyone
>>>known anything about it?  I asked my student to e-mail me what he
>>>had told me so I could forward it accurately to ads-l.  Any
>>>information/insight about it would be much appreciated.
>> I don't know about the "at least 20 years" part, but it's been
>> popularized over the last couple of years (long enough for it to have
>> become tiresome) by one of the hosts on ESPN's SportsCenter, who uses
>> it typically as a voice-over accompanying the showing of a walk-off
>> hit in the bottom of the last inning in a baseball game.
> That's a catchphrase of John Buccigross -- I don't recall hearing any of
> the
> other SportsCenter hosts use it. Wikipedia says he's been an ESPN anchor
> since
> 1996.
> --Ben Zimmer
>>>[e-mail from student]:
>>>I'm emailing you the question I had about "Winner, winner, chicken
>>>dinner."  I was wondering where it arose.  All I know of it is that
>>>it (the saying) has been used by sportscasters for at least twenty
>>>years, and that it's well-known enough that there are t-shirts with
>>>the saying emblazened on them:
>>>I've heard that the origin may have something to do with sports
>>>betting in the World War Two era, but I haven't found a reputable
>>>source that acknowledges this.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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